The Bridge

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Henry stood slowly as his knees protested. His left knee chirpled and his right sang out. He picked up the suitcase, which was lighter than it looked, lighter than it should have been. He turned to look at the city for the last time. It was his city, or had been his city. He felt the way you might feel looking at the grave marker of a loyal dog. He felt mixed with remorse for the loss, but hopeful that the next would be a good companion and loyal. It was very different from how he felt when looking at the grave of his wife and children. Their loss could not be replaced, nor that grief soothed.

The walkway of the bridge, the path of so many for so long stretched east, paved in weathered concrete and guarded on each side by steel railings. To his left, the cars rumbled by, and below the trains trundled loudly. To his right, the river rolled on her dark journey to the sea.

A cold wind carried the smells of the port, the honking of horns and the shrill cries of seabirds, cawing and squawking their presence and demands on the world.

He walked heavily and grudgingly. His eyes, once deepest brown, were ringed with grey and the whites of them streaked with capillaries. Tears oozed down the wrinkles of his face, and the wind dried them.

Not far along the bridge stood a young couple – a man and a woman. The man's arm was slung over the woman's shoulder, and he looked to his left and right nervously. His hair was chestnut red and wavering in the wind. He was lean and looked spry as if he could dive for a soccer ball to guard a goal or lay up a basketball with smooth ease and a satisfying swoosh.

The woman's arms were crossed, pressing in her breasts. Her cheekbones were high, and her eyes blue and her hair blond like her ancestors, no doubt from Eastern Europe. Henry wondered if she hailed from the Ukraine or Poland. Her pale skin was blotched in the wind. Her eyes were angry.

The couple paid him little attention as he passed, except that they each glanced from his eyes to the suitcase to the river and then to each other before slipping back to their collective reverie.

Henry's feet felt heavier the further he walked from his city.

Far ahead, midway across the bridge, a dark-skinned man cast a fishing line over the railing. The baited hook waivered and twirled as it plummeted and plunked a satisfying splash into the water. He leaned over the rail and peered down, adjusting his knit cap and military-issue jacket against the wind with his free hand.

Henry's feet grew heavier still.

From behind him came the tinny buzzing of a small engine.

Henry turned. A girl on a yellow scooter was approaching quickly. She buzzed around the young couple who looked at her suspiciously. Blue smoke burped from the scooter and wafted quickly in the wind. Dark strands of hair fluttered from under her red helmet. As she drew closer, her eyes locked with Henry's.

She stopped. The scooter rattled.

"What do you got?" she asked him, nodding to the suitcase.

"Oh, just some stuff and some other stuff."

"Where you goin'?"

"I'm heading east."

Her eyes, thinly lidded and blackish-brown, inquired of him. "What's in the east?" she asked.

"Much the same as in the west."

"And what's that?"

"Whatever you make of it."

Her scooter stalled. "I hate this thing," she said.

"It's not so bad," Henry said. "It usually serves you, doesn't it?"

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